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Improve Memory

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Improve Memory

Derek is 70 years old and is more forgetful than he used to be. While this often happens as we age, Derek's daughter suggested that he begin a regimen to improve his memory. His routine includes taking vitamins, eating foods rich in Omega-3s, reading each day, and taking a short walk around his home daily. After a few weeks, Derek is still somewhat forgetful, but he notices that it is easier to remember simple things!

  • What are different ways to improve memory?
  • What foods and other activities help improve memory?
  • How do you improve short-term memory?
  • How do you improve long-term memory recall?

Ways to Improve Memory

Memory loss can happen at any time in life for many different reasons. Forgetting can either be due to an error in the short-term or long-term memory. Sometimes failed memory retrieval is due to age or the decay of information we haven't used in a long time. Fortunately, there are ways to improve our memory over time and help our brain stay healthy as we age.

Short-term memory stores the information you are currently using or learning for a few seconds. Long-term memory stores an unlimited amount of information and knowledge.

So how do you improve your memory? Here are some tips that may help. First, focus on one thing at a time. When we are presented with too much information or try to do too many things at once, our brain can become overwhelmed and unable to remember anything. When we focus on one thing, with no other distractions, it gives us a better chance of remembering important things.

Multitasking is so common in American culture, particularly now that we have our smartphones with us everywhere! When we try to multitask, we attempt to focus our attention on several different tasks at once. This is really bad for the brain! We can only focus on one thing at a time. In multitasking, all we are doing is moving our attention from one thing to another very quickly and back again. Our brains are wired for monotasking: focusing on one task at a time.

A good way to remember important tasks or dates is to stay organized. Taking notes or keeping a daily planner makes it easier to stay on task and stay organized throughout the day. The brain loves organized information! Some other ways to improve memory are through diet, exercise, games, and books. What do all these things have in common? In short, anything that improves your memory stimulates the brain, resulting in new or stronger neural connections.

Foods that Improve Memory

You might be surprised to discover that our diets can improve memory retrieval. Unhealthy food that is highly processed or filled with sugar is not great for improving memory. If someone is looking to improve their memory retrieval process, they can eliminate foods that are harmful from their diet and consume more foods that are helpful for improving memory.

Harmful Foods for Memory

Alcohol can be harmful to short- and long-term memory. Surprisingly, even small amounts of alcohol can be detrimental to the hippocampus in our brain, which is responsible for memory storage. In more severe cases of alcohol consumption, blackouts are possible. Blackouts cause an inability to recall anything from the previous night because the hippocampus is completely blocked. The brain was unable to move short-term memories into long-term memory for future use.

High glucose or sugar levels increase the risk for dementia, a cognitive disease that impairs memory. Trans fats are unhealthy fats loaded with cholesterol that are bad for brain health. Trans fats inhibit blood and oxygen flow to the brain, not only contributing to short-term memory impairment but also permanent memory damage.

Refined carbs are known to spike glucose (sugar) levels in our bodies. Similar to sugar, those who consume refined carbs often are at higher risk of dementia and memory loss. Not only is there a higher risk of dementia, but the hippocampus is also affected. Refined carbs make the hippocampus swell, creating memory problems.

Helpful Foods for Memory

Omega-3s are good for the brain because they increase blood flow, which in turn enhances our cognitive functioning. Omega-3s are in multiple sources of food such as salmon, flaxseeds, seaweed, mango, avocados, soybeans, and eggs.

Greens are great for brain health. Any leafy greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, collard greens, etc. are a good source of vitamins and help support cognitive abilities and memory. Supplements can also help support brain health and memory. Supplements such as fish oil, ashwagandha, vitamin b, vitamin d, and vitamin k seem to improve memory loss over time.

Improve Memory a small white bowl filled with fresh spinach leaves StudySmarterSpinach, pixabay.com

Games to Improve Memory

Games that improve memory can either be played alone or with a partner. Some examples of games that may improve your memory are:

  • Crossword puzzles

  • Jigsaw puzzles

  • Sudoku

  • Chess

  • Memory games (matching)

Books to Improve Memory

Reading, in general, can enhance both short-term and long-term memory. There are many benefits of reading books, including stress relief and improved concentration. When you are reading, it is important to take information in slowly. Picture the information in your mind as you read.

Sometimes the best way to take in information is to read the book, page, or paragraph several times. Books are great for stimulating the brains of all age groups. Children can learn new things and form new memories while using their imagination as they read.

Exercises to Improve Memory

Any type of exercise is a great way to enhance brain function and improve memory. Physical exercise such as running, weight lifting, yoga, and meditation can improve cognitive functioning. When endorphins are released through exercise, our brain cells and blood vessels expand and multiply. This enhances our brain's ability to make new connections and form new memories. While exercising, the hippocampus grows, influencing our cognitive functioning.

Improve memory a woman holding up two purple hand weights StudySmarterWeight lifting, pexels.com

How to Improve Short-Term Memory

Short-term memory is able to hold 7 pieces of information, plus or minus 2 items. How can we improve our short-term memory, especially when we are bombarded with lots of information to remember? Repeating and reminding yourself of information that you do not want to forget can help improve your short-term memory. Repeating out loud or in your head can help move that information you want to remember from your short-term memory into your long-term memory.

You are meeting an entire group of new people for the first time. As they introduce their names, you try to hold all of them in your short-term memory: Jake, Lily, Sarah, Austin, Xio, Minh, Becca (7 names)...your brain starts to fog up. You go back through all of the names and say them out loud several times as you point to each person. After a few rounds of repeating the names, you are shocked by how well you are able to remember them all!

Repeating or rehearsing information over and over again can lead to overlearning. Overlearning improves the retention of verbal, visual, and spatial information. The more we learn about a topic, the better we are able to remember what we know about it.

Using memory shortcuts like chunking or grouping information also helps our short-term memory. By doing so, we are able to store more information. Of course, don't forget that getting enough sleep each night is crucial for proper cognitive functioning. Sleep deprivation can cause attention and memory issues.

How to Improve Long-Term Memory

Our long-term memory is where we store information for later on. When we practice studying information by holding facts and terms in our short-term memory, we can eventually transfer what we are learning to our long-term memory. Once it is transferred over, it becomes available for retrieval later. As you study, you are mostly using short-term memory. When you take an exam, you use your long-term memory to retrieve the answers.

Remember, all information in short-term memory disappears after a few seconds or so. The only way you will be able to remember the information later is if the information is transferred to your long-term memory.

So how can you improve this transfer process?

Studying information over a long period of time or multiple study sessions can help you remember information better later on. When we try to study fast and use shortcuts, we lose key information that our brain has to reconstruct to fill in the blanks of our memory. We may even develop false memories or answers that fit with what we remember or fit into an existing schema.

Jenna had a test in biology last week and just got her grade back. She is shocked to see that she got several questions wrong that she thought were right! She had no trouble answering those questions as she took the test, but her understanding and memory of the material were apparently faulty. As she reviews the test questions, she realizes that there are gaps in her memory and understanding of the material. Thankfully, she can use the feedback on this exam to help her study for the final!

Retrieval Cues

Pulling information out of long-term memory generally requires retrieval cues or reminders that help us remember. A few examples of retrieval cues are mnemonic devices, such as using acronyms to remember important information. Acronyms are easier to recall than the full list of information packed into the letters.

Here is an acronym for the order of operations in math: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract (PEMDAS). Does it look familiar? Acronyms are a great way to quickly recall information as you answer questions. If you forget the order of operations, you could easily answer a question wrong!

Factors that can make it easier or harder to recall information

Memory recall can be influenced by our state of mind (anxious, depressed, etc.), our mood, medications or drugs, and the environment we are in.

Your setting or environment plays a bigger role than you might think. If you can, take tests in the same location that you study. If you study in a library, pull up your quizzes and tests online to take them in the library.

Recreating the same setting in which you learned the information can enhance your recall. This is called context-dependent memory. There are certain events or situations you will only remember if those memories are triggered (cued) by being back in the same setting or location.

Substances and Medications

State-dependent retrieval means returning to the same state in which you learned or experienced what you are trying to remember. If something traumatic happened when you were drunk, you are more likely to remember that event when you are drunk again. In fact, you might only be able to remember what happened if you return to the same state as when the event happened.

Improving Memory - Key takeaways

  • Forgetting can either be due to an error in the short-term or long-term memory.
  • Short-term memory stores the information you are currently using or learning for a few seconds. Long-term memory stores an unlimited amount of information and knowledge.
  • Food, games, reading, and exercise can help aid in trying to improve memory.
  • Repeating out loud or in your head can help move the information you want to remember from your short-term memory into your long-term memory.
  • Pulling information out of long-term memory generally requires retrieval cues or reminders that help us remember.

Frequently Asked Questions about Improve Memory

You can improve memory through diet, exercise, reading, and other activities that stimulate the brain.

You can improve memory recall through the use of retrieval cues like mnemonic devices, specific contexts, and specific mood or mental states.

You can improve short-term memory through chunking, acronyms, rehearsing, and overlearning.

Foods that can help improve memory include foods containing omega-3s and leafy greens.

You can improve memory and concentration by taking in information slowly, exposing yourself to the information multiple times, and focusing on one task at a time.

Final Improve Memory Quiz

Question

_________  can either be due to an error in the short-term or long-term memory.

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Answer

Forgetting

Show question

Question

Sometimes failed memory retrieval can be because of age or?

Show answer

Answer

decay of information we haven't used in a while.

Show question

Question

Short-term memory is ?

Show answer

Answer

the memory that stores the current thoughts you are thinking of right now, but cannot retain a lot of information at once.

Show question

Question

What stores memories and prior knowledge with an unlimited supply of storage?


Show answer

Answer

Long-term memory

Show question

Question

A good way to remember important tasks, dates, or to-do's is to stay ___________?

Show answer

Answer

Organized

Show question

Question

__________  yourself aloud or in your head can help move that information you want to remember from your short-term memory into your long-term memory.

Show answer

Answer

repeating

Show question

Question

Some ways to improve memory can include _______________. 

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Answer

diet, exercising, games, and books

Show question

Question

Anything that improves one's memory must?

Show answer

Answer

stimulate the brain

Show question

Question

Harmful foods for memory don't include ____________

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Answer

Sugar

Show question

Question

What part of the brain is located in the temporal lobe and responsible for memory storage?

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Answer

Hippocampus

Show question

Question

What are not helpful foods for memory?

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Answer

Processed meat

Show question

Question

Omega-3s are good for the brain because they increase?

Show answer

Answer

blood flow

Show question

Question

What are examples of games that can improve memory?

Show answer

Answer

  • Crossword puzzles
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Sudoku
  • Chess
  • Memory games (Card Matching)

Show question

Question

The best way to improve short and long-term memory is through?

Show answer

Answer

Reading

Show question

Question

Physical exercise such as _____________________________________ can improve cognitive abilties and memory.

Show answer

Answer

 running, weight lifting, yoga, and meditation

Show question

Question

Why is focusing on one item at a time a helpful thing to do to improve memory?

Show answer

Answer

Your brain isn't overwhelmed and can therefore remember the one thing you're focusing on

Show question

Question

Are humans better at multitasking or monotasking?

Show answer

Answer

Monotasking

Show question

Question

What is alcohol more harmful to?

Show answer

Answer

Both

Show question

Question

How do blackouts (from alcohol) happen?

Show answer

Answer

The hippocampus is blocked so memories are unable to move from short-term to long-term

Show question

Question

Why are trans fats bad for memory?

Show answer

Answer

They inhibit blood and oxygen flow to the brain

Show question

Question

What increases the risk of dementia?

Show answer

Answer

High sugar levels

Show question

Question

How do refined carbs affect the hippocampus?

Show answer

Answer

It causes the hippocampus to swell, impacting memory

Show question

Question

What age group's memory benefits the most from reading?

Show answer

Answer

All ages

Show question

Question

Why is exercise beneficial for memory?

Show answer

Answer

Exercising causes endorphins to be released which leads to our brain cells and blood vessels to expand

Show question

Question

What is overlearning?

Show answer

Answer

When we repeat information over and over

Show question

Question

Why is overlearning beneficial to memory?

Show answer

Answer

It improves the retention of verbal, visual, and spatial information

Show question

Question

Does grouping information help our memory?

Show answer

Answer

Yes- it allows us to store more information

Show question

Question

Does cramming for a test help you remember better?

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Answer

No- the information doesn't move to long-term memory since it wasn't studied over a longer period of time

Show question

Question

What is context-dependent memory?

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Answer

Being in the exact same place where you learned something will help you remember it better

Show question

Question

What is PEMDAS an example of? 

Show answer

Answer

A mnemonic device 

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